Brothers with special needs star in a world without limits

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Anything that kids can dream and draw, brothers “Rooey” and “Bean Boy” can bring to life in their YouTube web series. (The boys go by their nicknames publicly for privacy reasons.)

“Imagination is so important because it can’t be limited,” said Adam Kelly, the boys’ father. “My children have found out from an early age that there are limits to their lives, there are limits to what they can do. It’s been our goal to focus on not what they can’t do but what they can do. And so the Go Go World is really born out of that idea; it’s a place where you can go and everything is possible.”

Every superhero has an origin story, a challenge that propels them to use their powers for good. The Go Go Brothers are no different.

Rooey, 9, is the big brother, reserved but kind. When he was a toddler, his day-care provider noticed his speech and language skills lagging behind those of the other children. He was diagnosed at 6 with autism. Although Rooey doesn’t talk much, he loves to draw. “What he can’t say, he can say through art,” Adam Kelly added.

Bean Boy, 7, the younger brother, is an extrovert, always cracking jokes. His parents call him their “miracle child.” Doctors diagnosed him in the womb with spina bifida, a birth defect that affects spinal cord development.

The boys regressed after starting school, particularly Rooey, whose personality began to fade. Communication became a big hurdle. “It was a struggle just to find out how his day went at school, and it would take almost the entire night just to get out a few things,” said the boys’ mother, Lisa Kelly. “It was heartbreaking that he couldn’t articulate what his day was like.”

Bean Boy, ever mindful of the scars on his back, became even more self-conscious. Prone to tripping, he grappled with low self-esteem, especially compared with kids who didn’t have problems with stamina and stability. He felt shame needing a nurse to help him use the bathroom.

The Kellys felt that they needed to do something. Fortunately, with Adam’s background in art and Lisa’s in special education, they were uniquely prepared.

“Kids with disabilities can move mountains,” Lisa Kelly explained. “You just have to give them the tools and the chance to do so.”

Those tools turned out to be an iPhone, a green screen and a box of art supplies.

The "Go Go Brothers" shoot their web series on an iPhone.

Lights, camera, action

The solution: combine the boys’ limitless imaginations with their interest in art and fondness for hamming it up for the camera.

“Every kid loves the spotlight,” Adam recalled. “So we knew that if we put them [in skits] where they were doing things they couldn’t do in their daily lives, they would get this sense of pride.”

Rooey and Bean Boy took ownership of the fun family project, starting with the name of the show. (“Go Go Brothers” comes from the family dog, a rescued shelter mutt named Go Go.) In addition to starring in the series, the boys provide all the artwork (aside from viewer submissions) and develop the scripts with their dad.

Adam, who happens to be a professional animator, says his role is just to help bring their vision to life. While he animates and edits the videos, he insists, the boys are the ones really calling the shots. “It is for kids, by kids,” he added.

"Rooey," left, and "Bean Boy" appear in a scene from their web series, "Go Go Brothers."

Finding an audience — and themselves

Lisa suggested that they put their videos on YouTube so friends and family across the country could keep up with the boys as they grew. But soon, other viewers began tuning in and sending in their own artwork to be featured on the show. There’s now a backlog of submissions that will keep the “Go Go Brothers” busy for the foreseeable future.

“It really touches people,” Adam said. “It’s great to see something that we’re doing for fun help other people as well.”

The show even attracted interest and support from the professional voice acting community. Rob Paulsen, the voice of Pinky from “Pinky and the Brain,” was the first to lend his talents to the “Go Go Brothers.” Greg Cipes, Anna Brisbin and James Arnold Taylor have also voiced characters.

After making 18 episodes, the Kellys said, both boys have improved. Bean Boy is no longer so self-conscious, and Rooey has “really blossomed.” Along with support at school, acting on the show has boosted his confidence and communications skills.

That comes in handy when the boys get recognized in public. Fans have stopped them in restaurants, in parking lots and at school to express their appreciation. “[It] makes me feel very nice and awesome and cool,” Rooey said.

The show’s message of inclusion has resonated with children of all ages and abilities.

“Just because you have a disability, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to have any less of a beautiful life,” Adam said. “We hope that the Go Go World helps you find whatever it is inside you that makes you you and makes you feel important.”



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